Wednesday, November 23, 2011

How to Swallow an Overcooked Thanksgiving Turkey

I don’t know if it shows, but this blog has been on a diet. The last three posts contained not one mention of food or beverage. Naturally, this diet resulted in no weight loss whatsoever. Instead, it stirred up a peculiarly strong hankering for fried chicken.

But it’s Thanksgiving, so let’s talk about a different bird: turkey.

Every year around this time, my thoughts inevitably drift to my mother and her cooking. Ruth Martin firmly believed it wasn’t possible to overcook a turkey. She would wrap it in foil, slap some butter on it, and cook it overnight. As in: all night long.

When my father would attempt to carve the bird the next day, the turkey meat would transmogrify into turkey dust. As I stared at the turkey dust pile on my plate, I would always whisper under my breath what I was truly thankful for in that moment.

How could I have consumed turkey dust without gravy as a vessel for transporting it down my throat? Of course, the Cold Duck helped wash it down, too. (Does anyone still drink Cold Duck? And if so, have they been held for questioning?)

You may think I’m exaggerating about my mother’s culinary skills. I am not. My mother is not now and never has been a good cook. With all the Mrs. Butterworth bottles, potato mashers, pie birds, and Aunt Jemima recipe boxes to collect, she was more interested in accumulating the outdated artifacts of cooking than in the actual act of cooking itself. 

I wouldn’t have it any other way. Most mothers can cook and do it well. My mother had spirit, character, eccentricity, a passion for collecting, a love of her husband and children, and in her later years, a talent for painting. She still loves her family and possesses spirit and character, though Alzheimer’s, or whatever form of dementia she has, is slowly dimming the rest. 

And so, this Thanksgiving, I am thankful for my mother--and for all mothers. Your children will never fully know the sacrifices you made for them, the pain you tried to protect them from, the opportunities you worked hard to give them. So what if you overcook the turkey? There will always be gravy.

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  1. My mother was also not a "good" cook, though I though she was until I left the home and discovered what good cooking tasted like. Out bird was the opposite of yours as mom never completely thawed the bird.. IO learned to like a Turkey that is a little pink in the middle.

    My post today discribes my Traditional Thanksgving Turkey

    The Cranky Old Man

  2. I think it says something about your mother that you could still find something positive out of her Thanksgiving meals.

    I've thought about this a lot over the last few days as I prepare my usual Thanksgiving meal--most of my recipes are, of course, from my mother. And yet, I leave out certain things, such as sweet potatoes (with the marshmallows) and cranberry sauce, because I don't eat them. And I wonder if my children are missing out on something of Thanksgiving by me not including such tried-and-true favorites and what their future husbands or wives will think of their Thanksgiving appetites. But then I console myself, because like you, there's always gravy or lots of wine somewhere near by.

    Happy Thanksgiving to you, James, and your family!

  3. Oh - I love this. It brings back so many memories! She did try to be nutritious in her own way. I remember the canned tuna, pinto bean and potato chip dinners when Dad was out of town I actually liked it for some strange reason.

  4. My mother never remembered when she put something in the oven. It was always burned to a crisp or gooey. But like you, I laugh about it now and treasure the memories. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family, Jim.

  5. My ancestors arrived in Africa and tried to boil Avocados until they were soft. You don't want to know what they did with big bird...
    Of all the sparkling wine (and champagne) in all the world, Cold Duck is by far still my favourite. Pass me the straight-jacket.

  6. Our big family tradition, according to my dad, was the fact that we served black olives at every holiday. My poor mom. All her hours of preparation and the man remembered the olives.

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours, especially to your wonderful mother.

  7. When I read how your mother prepared a turkey, I had to run out and read it to my husband. Both Moms shared the same recipe!

  8. I love to cook but why bother when there's one or two people. Loved your story and almost called out "gravy" as I was reading it. You gave me a wonderful laff and I thank you. I'm originally from Michigan City, Indiana and I often wonder why the heck I came out here. I have traveled all around the US and I like the South. Just wondering what brought you out here. If you already blogged on it link me up Scotty! ♥

  9. Awwww, how sweet. I wish I had read this on Thanksgiving day, then I could have read it out loud to my children. But noooooo....on Thanksgiving Day I was busy making a turkey and dressing and rolls and pies. Did those two ungrateful children of mine help? Well yes, but that's beside the point! Just kidding, my kids are pretty great.

    But thank you for the kind words and the shout-out to your mother and me...cause I'm a mother.

    So, with that out of the way, let me just tell you that I must own 5 sets of dishes, glasses, silverware, every pot and pan known to man! I own probably 57 cookbooks and every recipe ever posted online is in a folder in my favorites entitled "Recipes I will drool over but will never make but still I save them cause you never know!" I can totally understand your mom :-D